Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Tale of Didi, Amma and Priyanka Caste Vs Charisma in Indian Politics

Article first published in +ABP NEWS  Click here to read

Picture Courtesy +ABP NEWS (AFP)

Moving decidedly towards the second half of the fifties in life – Vanaprastha beckons. A home in the hills is something one had always dreamt of. But, Maslow’s hierarchy has been redefined to suit needs of modern times and include Broadband connectivity at the base of the pyramid. So, after an extensive search of hills from Uttarakhand to Kerala via Darjeeling and Coorg  – finally settled for The Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu – which seems to balance nature and nurturing necessities of life the best.
As one planned the transition, there were the unavoidable comparisons between Didi and Amma. A sizeable section of friends and associates felt – if one were to scratch the surface there was not much difference at the core of the two dispensations. Both were based on strong identity politics and personality cult. But, that is probably where the similarities end.
If one were to go by popular perception, the difference in the scale of corruption between the two states – would be like that of the budget of a Rajinikanth blockbuster and the most expensive Bengali Tollywood production. While in Tamil Nadu it is believed to have reached epic proportions ages ago, in Bengal it is still at best nascent. Yet, Tamil Nadu is the most industrialized state in India and continues to be among the top investment destination. It is this conundrum that baffles many at first sight – but the phenomenon is not difficult to explain.
At the risk of appearing cynically pragmatic, it is must be said – notwithstanding righteous remonstrations – corruption is not alien to industrialists across the world. But, what businessmen essentially seek is predictability and stability. Above all, they are interested in delivery (of promises). These are non-negotiable conditions precedent of investment without which no industrialist will put money on the ground. It is precisely on these metrics TN scores consistently high and other states – especially in the Indo-Gangetic belt (UP, Bihar and West Bengal) fail dismally.
Therefore, even in his third term and despite significant progress in infrastructure – Nitish Kumar has little to show in terms of big-ticket investment in the state. Investors take time to build confidence especially if past experience has been negative. The enabling factors for development – obviously, remains work-culture, education, law and order and bureaucratic efficiency – that build an ecosystem conducive to progress.
Thereafter, principles of free market economy take over – where corruption is merely a ‘price-tag’ that people will pay for only if they find what they get in exchange is worth the quote. This also reveals the massive value-creation potential of the Indian economy – which if successfully harnessed can generate sufficient surplus for all to share. So, it is not surprising that the per-capita income of Tamil Nadu stays at the top-end of the chart irrespective of which party is in power.
The analysis above may appear simplistic. But, fundamentals are seldom too complex. It may be argued that, the situation in the Hindi-heartland and the Eastern states are equally predictable – but in an uncharitable sense – because nothing can really ever change there in a hurry. Worse still, the people seem to have reconciled to that fate. So, even if Nitish Kumar won his earlier mandates on the promise of “Vikas” and Mamata Banerjee on “Poriborton” – voters did not hold them critically accountable for it before returning them to power in subsequent elections. This may also be because – the idea of development is bound to be different for those not sure about where their next meal is going to come from and the ones who are spoilt for choice between a TV, Washing Machine or Mixer-Grinder as poll freebies.
But, electoral equations are more complex than econometrics. So – as we inch towards the all-important battle for Uttar Pradesh – the moot question is whether caste considerations of BSP and SP will prevail over charisma of Priyanka Gandhi, Smriti Irani or Anupriya Patel. And, it will not be just the Economy, stupid!!

The author is a marketer, writer and blogger who views life from a Right Angle. Opinions expressed are his own and not that of his employers.